The Colorado Springs City Council-appointed medical marijuana task force tied up loose ends at its final scheduled meeting March 14, conducting several votes on proposed draft ordinances and briefly discussing the possibility of recommending to Council a second moratorium for the industry.
Tom Scudder, task force member and dispensary owner, suggested the task force recommend a second moratorium specific to dispensaries upon May’s expiration of the current moratorium.
As marijuana businesses proliferate nationally, Scudder said Colorado Springs is attractive for those trying to learn the industry. The market, he said, is getting too crowded.
“I think we have way too many [dispensaries],” Scudder said. “I’m a free market guy and don’t think we should restrict these things very often. But we should at least talk about it. If someone wants to get into this industry, the first place they’ll go is Colorado. When they get to Colorado the first place they go is Colorado Springs. … It’s the biggest place that allows people to open stores right now.”
The city, prior to the moratorium, had licensed more than 130 dispensaries, most of which are currently operating.
“A couple years ago, we had as [few as 60 dispensaries],” Scudder said. “It’s getting to a number that’s not sustainable, in my opinion. We will have businesses that won’t thrive and a lot will start to struggle. … That could cause lot’s of problems.”
Larry Bagley, city councilor and the task force’s chairman, said the thought would be shared with council prior to the first reading of ordinances scheduled for April 26.
Additionally, the task force voted unanimously on several draft ordinance recommendations.
It was determined that infused product manufacturers using hazardous materials (such as butane) during extraction, should be relegated to industrial zones. Manufacturers infusing products will be allowed in those zones by right and can be located in commercial zones as a conditional use. The planning commission would determine conditional uses, and city council would hear appeals.
Fire Marshal Brett Lacey said if extraction businesses can prove their methods are safe, they could be categorized as nonhazardous and be considered for additional zones. Criteria for safe extraction was not immediately determined, however.
The group also discussed the mitigation of odor surrounding grow operations, and whether there could be an objective determinate of violation. The task force recommended a set number of carbon filters based on the size of the structure, but it was agreed that ratio would have to be determined separate from the task force’s meeting.
The task force voted unanimously to set hours of operation for dispensaries at 8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, but inventory could be transported beginning at 7 a.m. and until 10 p.m.
Scudder said he and other dispensary owners were fine with the hours, but added the state allows operations until midnight. If surrounding communities extended hours of operation, he said he’d like the task force to reconsider.
Deputy Chief of Staff Bret Waters said, while the meeting was officially the group’s last, he planned on seeing everyone again in the near future.
“It seems to be these issues are a moving target,” Waters said. “Like the 12-plant limit, I think other issues will come up and we’ll get citizen input that something’s not working.”
Waters said there were several skimmed issues he’d like to mention in the group’s recommendation to council for future consideration. Those included the use of cooperatives to circumvent the 12-plant residential grow limit; fees assessed to marijuana businesses considering the higher level of expected enforcement; utility usage and advertising.
Regarding advertising, Waters called out Native Roots’ Gas & Grass, which have co-located medical dispensaries and gas stations.
“I’m not sure how the industry feels about that,” Waters said. “It does have a recreational feel to it for someone driving by. I’m not sure that’s the sense we want to give to the community.”
Council will discuss the task force’s recommendations during its work session March 21. The council-approved six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses is scheduled to expire May 25. The task force has been meeting since November to come up with new methods of regulating medical marijuana industries in Colorado Springs.